Remember Victor Frankl

by rthieme on March 22, 2020

Victor Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist whose life was shredded by the holocaust. When times are bad, I think of his example.

His professional life and work as a neurologist and psychiatrist ended. His home, his office, his library were all destroyed.

His family was murdered in the Holocaust. He lost them all.

His name, his identity, was taken away and replaced with a number on his arm.

His clothes, a support for a social identity, were replaced with the striped pajamas of a concentration camp inmate.

His sense of predictability and stability were destroyed by frequent beatings and privations and the constant threat of death.

His response, when everything had been taken from him that constitutes a person, was to find scraps of debris in the camp and scribble sentences on them for a work he intended to create on the other side of horror. He wrote the plan for the work in his mind. He imagined a meaningful future, despite the evidence to the contrary.

Frankl survived and wrote “Man’s Search for Meaning.” He created logotherapy, based on his own experience, a school of psychotherapy based on the premise that, even with nothing left, a human being was free to create purpose and meaning in his or her life, and that freedom gives us the ability to endure and transcend anything.

Frankl responded to horror with courage, resilience, and heroism. Not because he was special or different, but because he was human.

That capacity for response is intrinsic to every human being. It is a quality in our very souls. We too can respond to whatever life brings by creating meaning and purpose to see us through the darker times. We too can respond with dignity, elasticity, and when the chips are down, genuine heroism.

I remember Victor Frankl.

March 22 2020

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